On Unconventional Choices

Moving into this house five years ago has brought about many changes.  We’re living in a different house, duh, but that’s not exactly what I mean.  The house is different in style, boxy and modern versus our more traditional ranch from before.


Though I appreciate many styles, clean, modern houses top my list.  Probably the biggest difference is the landscape.  In just a few miles, the terrain shifts from typical, mostly level city lots with lush grass to steep, rugged/rocky, and natural hillsides.  Dated blue siding, with patched in areas of still natural cedar siding weren’t doing the house any favors.  Nor were the unkempt, overgrown weed hillsides and we set out to update both.


Our choices for the exterior siding and landscape are a bit atypical, but do make the most sense for our house/lot, climate, and lifestyles.  Working with the modern design of the house was far easier than taming the wild slopes around the house, so let’s start there.

Along with typical lap siding, we decided to add accents of CorTen steel.  Why is it so different?  It’s a specific kind of steel that creates a protective layer of surface rust.   Yes, we want our house to rust.  Back in the planning stage, many people, family, friends, and readers, had strong opinions against our choice.  Some going so far to say it looked like a mobile home with steel skirting.


We went ahead with our plan, but slightly deviated by choosing standing seam over corrugated steel.  Just after installing the final piece in November 2014, the house looked very, well…gray.  And shiny.  And boring.


Within eight months, the process had already begun.  It’s a living finish, aging with rain and humidity, slowly deepening.  We also started building our balcony, hence the partially finished railing.


Near the end of that summer, with encouragement in the form of regular spraying from a garden hose, the color continued to deepen.  Finishing the balcony, staining it dark to blend also helped.


Today, we have a deep reddish-brown rust with texture and spotting that, from a distance, looks much like a stained wood board and batten.



This siding is durable, low maintenance, and the long vertical strips make it easy to install along a steep grade, hiding the ugly foundation line.  Since install, we’ve had a large hail storm, with zero damage to the siding.


As I mentioned at the beginning, the landscape drastically changes in just a few miles.  Our rocky landscape is somewhat abnormal, but many homes in our neighborhood have a lot or most rock.


Unlike our home, many others have large areas of level landscape.  Due to our driveway, both the front and back have steep slopes.  Starting at the road, the lot rises 12 to 15 feet before arriving at our front door.


That’s far too steep to mow normal grass.




Furthermore, we live in an area that gets 14 inches of annual precipitation, which is just 4 inches more than the definition of a desert.  Of course, very little comes in the heat of the summer, when grass really needs a thorough soaking.  The combination of the steep hillside and lack of rainfall, we didn’t feel it was responsible to try to grow grass.  Instead, we’ve covered the slopes in limestone, which prevents erosion and quicker water evaporation.  Over the years, I’ve slowly added water wise plants to soften/cover the rock and brighten the landscape.  Unlike the siding, the landscape continues to require maintenance, so we’re happy to save time and work where we can.  Have you chosen any unusual finishes for your home?

How Does Our Garden Grow?

Warmer weather means we’re all spending more time outside, and I’m spending a lot of time with my plants.


Nearest the front entry, a hydrangea, yews, Stella d’Oro day lilies, and catmint are all filling out.  Peonies are lush with oodles of buds, soon to be blooms.  Eek!!


Between the garage doors, I added a DIY planter with an arborvitae to soften the hard lines.


A tonal green grouping of arborvitae, sweet potato vine, and blue spruce succulents at the front door welcome everyone coming and going.


Learning what plants suit our landscape, conditions, and zone has been a learning curve, filled with research, trial and error.  One particularly tricky area is below the living room bump out, in front of the two basement windows.


Full sun exposure, heat radiating back from the house, and the shelter from rain require a lot more water.  The higher the heat tolerance, the better.  After striking out with a few other things, I’ve gone back to my old stand by: Stonecrop Angelina with a few Snow-in-Summer mixed in for variety.  Both stay low enough that the views and light won’t be blocked at full size.


A mixture of Smoke Trees, Spirea, Salvia, Catmint, and Nest Spruce edge the bocce court.


Fronting the deck, I’ve planted a row of Karl Foerster grasses, which at full height will help the deck feel lower.  Spaced between each grass is a Black Eyed Susan, to add a pop of color.


A trio of Irises are currently in bloom, adding a lovely purple to the landscape.  Look at that amazing detail!


We’ve been lucky enough to have a wet spring, keeping everything bright and green.  Spotting rainbows after is a lucky sighting, and this one was such an interesting display.


Coming up from the driveway, the back garden is a favorite view and has a tranquil feel.


Winter was rough, killing my beautiful butterfly bush.  Ah well, it was a risk when I chose it two years ago as it’s zone 5 and we’re 4.  I swapped out the dead shrub for a fragrant Japanese honeysuckle, which smells divine!  Adding a trellis is still on my list is still on my spring to do list.


Closest to the stairs, the two Snowball Viburnum are in full bloom.


In addition to the slow garden growth, the CorTen steel siding has continued to rust, deepening to an almost wood tone.


Against the back of the house, the viburnum and a hydrangea flank the ends of the garden with shorter plants between.  To add height, I’ve recently added a double hook with an adorable bird feeder.


Eventually, the other side will have a hanging plant, but the birds are already thrilled with this addition.


I’m thrilled with the appearance of the teeny tiny hydrangea buds.


The waterfall is full and on one of our warmer days, the boys took a quick run through it on a dare.


When spending so much time outside, I’ve been eyeing all of the cool garden decor available now.  My wish list includes a sculptural trellis for the honeysuckle, a hanging planter, and hose storage.  As a bonus, I’d love a cute rug, maybe a pot or two, and perhaps a few other goodies.  A potting bench could double as a serving station for outdoor entertaining.  Maybe something like this:



Coral Coast Halstead Wood Obelisk  $80   Hanging Copper Planter  $50   Round Galvanized Wall Planter  $9   Rain Chain Copper Cup  $49   Metal Potting Bench  $70   Metal Hose Pot  $40   Black Forged Shepard Hook  $9   Smith and Hawken Bird Feeder  $20   Threshold Garden Tool Set  $16   Metal Peyton Barrel  $50   Hello Goodbye Doormat  $13

Or even something like this:



Metal Orb Decorative Sculpture  $19    Hanging Ceramic Planter  $47   Round Galvanized Wall Planter  $9   Bell Rain Chain  $40   Hindo Indoor/Outdoor Cabinet  $69   Liberty Garden Copper Hose Pot  $53   Black Forged Shepard Hook  $9   Emerald Green Bird Feeder  $15   Garden Tool Set  $10   Ella Square Black Resin Planter  $39   Crinkle Diamond Doormat  $13

Most likely a combo of items from each.  Do you have any favorite garden accessories or additions?  What’s your favorite way to grow vines?  Also, do you have experience with a light weight hose?  If so, brand preference?

Five Years After the Sale

Along with a five-year look back at our current house, I thought it’d be fun to pop in with a peek inside our old house.  When we sold it as for sale by owner, we became friends with the buyer.  That relationship has continued over the years, but they’ve recently decided to move.  With the five-year mark coming up, I asked if I could take photos to share  now.  A lot has changed in five years, including a new roof and siding thanks to the hail storms we’ve had.


The brown roof and tan siding were never my favorite, but didn’t warrant replacing when we owned it.  Of course I adore the new gray, as well as the landscaping that also happened.


Once inside the front door, it immediately feels familiar, welcoming, and homey, but not mine.


A sectional fills the room, but leaves plenty of space near the entry.


When we lived here, we were in the final stages of renovation, but the beginning stages of acquiring furniture.  Tucking a little bar and chair into the corner is a cozy addition.


Decorating around a television is a great way to take the focus off the big black box while displaying treasures.


Seriously, how cute is this little set up?!


Even though we didn’t have much time in the newly renovated kitchen, it sees plenty of love and use now.



The space isn’t huge, but opening it up kept it airy.  Drawers provide maximum storage, and those wood counters are still a favorite of mine.


That plate shelf wall comes in handy again.


Down the hall, the pantry over the steps looks super cute with a new chalkboard finish.


The owner is a collector of vintage items, and I love the warmth they add to the bathroom.


What was our guest bedroom is a cute bedroom for a sweet girl.


Quite opposite from myself, the buyer is fashionable and uses the boys’ old bedroom as a large closet.  That ladder to store shoes is such a genius storage solution.



We sold the bed with the house so it’s strange how little has changed in the master bedroom.


Roughly a year and a half ago, I shared a master bathroom update that I helped out with, taking the walls a near black.


Going down the stairs, the family room is a cozy hang out spot.


The large basement bathroom now has a finished shower, something we never got around to.


This office space was one of my favorite rooms in the house, in part because of the ample storage.


The large back yard has a new concrete patio, perfect for entertaining.


Behind the garage, an adorable little shed with wooden beams as stepping “stones” is so cute.


It certainly is strange to see the house after living there, but also wonderful because the house has been lived in and appreciated since we’ve left.  It’s so corny because it hasn’t been ours for five years, but it makes my heart happy knowing it has been taken care of.

The Thought Process for the Pool House

Planning for the finishes of the indoor pool house is a strange mix of interior and exterior.  Interior in that we want finishes that flow with the rest of the house.  Exterior due to the water splashes and potential for high humidity.  Basically, we need to create a bathroom on steroids.  Deciding on the ceiling finish was really easy for us as we have tongue and groove throughout our house as well as the front deck.  The walls, however, have been much trickier.  Many siding options are an option as well as more interior specific finishes such as tile and plaster.


Along with looking good, we need something that won’t be damaged by water.  Perhaps most importantly, we want something that won’t feel dated-hopefully ever, but especially not in a couple of years.  With that said, dark stained wood lap siding covered the walls before, which I’m sure was lovely in the late 70’s/early 80’s.  Flash forward 40 or so years, and the walls feel dated and very dark.

New-House-Pool-Room April 13 2012

To be honest, shakes, stone, and tile were never viable options for us.  Shakes would feel too busy and traditional.  The price of stone can get insane really quickly.  Tile could be pretty along the bottom four feet, but I want simple.  Plaster walls would also be beautiful, but touching up any damaged areas can be a nightmare.  So we’re left with lap and board and batten siding.

Ben preferred lap siding, while I pushed for board and batten.  For simplicity sake, longevity, and the bright feel, either would be painted white.

Having installed lap siding on much of our exterior, Ben knows the process quite well.  After initial pricing, the lap siding would be significantly less expensive than board and batten.  Call me a princess, call me stubborn, but I knew lap siding was not what I wanted.  Sure, the new siding would be slightly wider than the old wood stuff, but it still felt like a cop-out.  I wasn’t ready to give up on my vision, so we discussed other materials and got pricing.

To keep the white walls from feeling boring and dull, we’ll space batten strips 8 inches apart, similar to this:
Image result for white board and batten detail
Details have been swirling around in my head since we bought the house, but have been firming up as we complete more on the to do list.  What I have pictured in my head is along the lines of this design board:
When finished, I want the room to feel fresh, bright, and sleek.  Kind of a California cool/simple vibe with a dash of rustic mixed in.  The wall treatment will play a big role in this, contrasted by continuing the dark slate floor from the adjacent kitchen.
Four modernized versions of traditional lantern scones will add separate lighting zones to the hot tub and kitchen areas.  On my lighting search, I primarily looked at outdoor sconces, as they can withstand water/humidity.  Also, outdoor sconces run bigger, creating a better proportion in this large of a space.  Near the future hot tub, a pair of sconces will go on either small angled wall.
Another pair will flank a window in the kitchen (kitchenette, really as it will only have a sink and range), as pictured below with my paper templates hung up.  Opposite the window we’ll have a sink, gas range, and vent above.  Olive green cabinets have been on my mind and I think the little kitchen side is the perfect spot to play around with a dose of color.
Tucked into that angle, I want a bank of built-in storage benches to keep pool toys and such neatly stowed away.
For function, I think it’d be best to mount cute hooks on the wall below the window to conveniently hang fun striped towels.
High on my preference list is a pair of trees, perhaps citrus, to flank either side of the wide end windows, with a wood framed sofa between.
As you can see based on the pictures, we’re still far off from the finishing details.  Our current step is framing new walls to better insulate, followed up with tile.

Year Five Pool House Progress

With the five-year mark just passing, taking a look back was satisfying.



But, seeing progress in the warehouse, I mean pool house, is equally fulfilling.  Unlike the rest of the house, this room has, without a doubt, only gotten worse as we’ve lived here.  After closing, the pool house looked like this:

New-House-Pool-Room April 13 2012

Certainly not the worst starting point, but still far from our ideal.  Indoor carpet, stained lap siding on the walls, water stained beams, and a fiberglass ceiling had all seen better days.


To revamp the space, the first order of business is always demolition.  First the ceiling, followed up with the floors.  Oh boy, this was a treat.  And by treat I mean hours of Ben chiseling and chipping and me with heavy buckets to haul and oodles of vacuuming.  Let the good times roll.


About halfway through the tile removal, we took a break and knocked out the half bath for fun.


The in swinging door at the center of the room made it awkward to actually get in the room and close the door.  Instead, we want to add a pocket door, keeping the room open and accessible.


To start, we tore down the previous wall and planned out the new door placement.  Then we built a new header, as well as a full new wall.  Just to the right, we built up the wall to accommodate a wider door leading into the kitchen.  To do so, we had to transfer the load of the overhead beam by adding a massive header.  Finally the fun part, opening up the wall for the new door.



Ta da!  Time for a wider door.


Install went smoothly and we’re loving the flood of light coming in the office.  The wider door also makes the pool house feel more intentional, like a part of the house and less like the addition it is.


Framing the larger door adds balance to the large wall, unlike the second photo above.


With that wall built, we got back to chipping up tile and mastic.  Fingers tightly crossed, we’re past the worst part of the demo work.  Three more walls to build, electrical to run, and we’ll be able to start laying tile and getting to the pretty parts.


Soon all of the plans swirling around in my head will start to take shape, which is a thrilling concept.